What would you like to search for?

Running dry: The story of Durban’s water

Early in the city’s history, Durbanites survived on rainwater and wells until the city grew and needed more. Concerns around Durban’s sewage system continue, especially in informal settlements where a solution needs to be implemented soon.

© Transnet Heritage Foundation
Until 1882, Durban relied on rainwater and wells for its water.
Five facts about Durban’s water:

  1. Durban had plans to begin piping water from as early as the 1860s but these were eventually scrapped after being considered too expensive.
  2. Despite being one of South Africa’s highest rainfall areas, Durban was struck by drought in the late 1800s.
  3. Finally, in 1887, a scheme to transfer water the Umbilo River in Pinetown was completed.
  4. In 1905, the city suffered the Great Floods that washed away the dam walls of the Umbilo water scheme. It also drowned residents who had lived on the river banks. Another flood followed in 1917 which forced municipality authorities to rethink the water infrastructure.
  5. Today, the Mngeni system is the main supplier of water to Durban. Low rainfall in the past two years has left dam levels at Midmar and Albert Falls very low. This has meant mandatory water restrictions being implemented.

Is Durban geared up to ensure it is prepared for the environmental challenges that lie ahead? At WWF’s 2018 Living Planet Conference on 25 July, a group of water-minded experts will discuss and share solution to this and other urgent challenges and arising opportunities in South Africa.

© Commons
Today, the main Durban supply is at risk because of low rainfall.
Join the conversation

Join WWF’s Living Planet Conference on 25 July via livestream or follow the conversation on Twitter #LPC2018 #AmanziAction.